Chapin Street School, Milford - c.1905. Tom is at the right side of the front row.

                                                        THE TALE OF TOM MALLOY
                                                                        By: Bill Wright

      The startled nurse certainly moved out of the way, though with measured reluctance. In 1949, the maternity ward, absent doctors, perhaps maintenance men and visiting new fathers (during scheduled visiting hours) was a female dominated bastion.

     The individual, purposefully, powerfully pushing through the fire doors was clearly not female and visitations were a long way along the clock from that moment. The yielding nurse directed only the blur of a powerfully built, uniformed police officer, indeed, Police Chief, to the room of his only child, Mary June (Malloy) Wright. “June”, as she chose to be known, had just given birth to a baby. A boy (your humble writer). The first grandchild of Thomas F. Malloy, Hopedale’s Police Chief and a new, proud grandfather. My Papa.

    Thus began a great friendship that ultimately spanned over four decades.

                                                   PART ONE, THE EARLY YEARS
“Papa” was born on April 9, 1898 of Irish immigrants Tom and Mary Malloy. From what I gather, his parents settled first in Boston, then Medway and finally in Milford. First born Tom was one of eight children, Peter, Danny, Billy, Ed, Margaret, Celia and Theresa soon joined him.

    A few stories of his youth can be recalled. He remembered playing with the “Sonya” (sp?) boys, walking the dirt roads around Sumner Street, finding things to do. Certainly catching frogs was fun until one day the frog in his pocket jumped out. In class at St. Mary’s, Sister was displeased with the hopping amphibian creating chaos. From all accounts, this ended his frog catching days.

    But ever the animal lover, he began catching and keeping pigeons. He built a wire cage in the backyard where his pets were kept, for awhile. For supper one night, his mother served “chicken” soup. Having finished his meal he commented that the soup tasted a bit different. He then looked at his pigeon cage and noticing a distinct lack of occupants. “Where are my pigeons?” he cried. “I rung their necks and made chicken soup,” his mother explained. The chagrined former bird keeper went for a walk.

    Having experienced less than success with wildlife, he developed a love of sports, becoming a left handed pitcher of some repute. Boston cousins could be visited by catching a train and summers brought lots of opportunity to play baseball. On one trip, his cousin’s team was playing the local league leaders. Papa was asked to pitch and immediately began to mow down batter after batter. Not taking kindly to having been duped by a ringer, Tommy and his cousins were chased from the field, all the way home. Baseball however continued to play a big part in his life. As he was walking home from a sandlot game, ball and glove in hand, a well dressed stranger, climbing the stairs to a second floor apartment called out, “Hey sonny, throw me the ball.” Innocently, the lad lobbed the ball to the gentleman. The ball was expertly caught and immediately fired back at the boy, an obvious head shot. Papa caught it and not to be outdone, aimed a head shot at the man who, gloveless, ducked, allowing the ball to crash though a window. The older man stood, laughing saying, “It’s okay sonny, I had that one coming. I’ll get your ball and pay for the window.” And indeed George “Babe” Ruth recovered the ball and returned it, saying, “That was a good one.” Papa recalled that the Babe may have been a little drunk.

    Of course, with so many brothers and sisters, there was a family life. Peter (later Father Peter B. Malloy) was in the eyes of Mother Mary a really cute child and had a long, bowl shaped haircut. To his elder brothers he looked to be a sissy, an opinion quietly shared by Big Tom, the family patriarch. This egregious breach of youthful manliness cried for correction. Tom and younger brother Ed (if the writer’s memory serves) asked Peter to come “down cellar”. Thrilled to join his brothers, Pete accompanied them, unaware of the plot to shear his lovely locks. The dastardly deed was done with dreadfully unattractive results leaving the three boys to hide out until “Big Tom” returned from work and supper was served. The two offenders and their victim were the last to appear at the table. Mother was aghast and began to roundly bawl out the neophyte barbers. Though trying to support his wife, dad was trying equally hard to suppress his chuckles. When supper and the chastisement were finished Tom and Ed, both out of view and earshot of mother got a knowing loving wink and smile from dad, accompanied by whispered, “Good boys.”

    Milford at the time was a haven for Irish Catholic immigrants, a situation not well embraced by the largely “Yankee” population. Indeed, Papa recalled signs reading “Rooms for Rent…No Irish” or “Help Wanted, Irish need not apply,” In the second decade of the twentieth century the Irish were largely relegated to tenements located around  Sumner, Winter and Pearl Streets and environs. Further, new fangled contraptions such as indoor plumbing were a rarity meaning that “one’s business” occurred in an outhouse. Such conveniences required attention, frequently performed by the landlord. One lady neighbor however had a particularly unpleasant landlord who refused to shoulder the burden of required upkeep. The outhouse was a foul experience for her and rather unpleasant for the neighbors. In the latter days of the twentieth century, juvenile mischief occurs on Halloween (decades later, more stories of that and Chief Malloy). But in the second decade of the twentieth century it was the night of the Fourth of July.

    Within the neighborhood was a hat manufacturing factory which is probably where Big Tom worked and where lots of highly flammable excelsior was stored. Here perhaps we see the beginnings of Tom’s long career of public service. He organized some (unidentified) friends to collect excelsior and somehow, a bit of kerosene. The goods were carried to the site of the offended facility which was knocked over, packed with the combustibles, doused with kerosene and ignited as the delinquents headed for the hills. It was a lusty, smelly fire that briefly left a rather nasty stench through the area after the flames exhausted. The next day saw the filling in of the existing hole (with charred remains and dirt), the excavation of a new one and the erection of a new structure. A flowery ambience embraced the area. No direct blame was ever placed upon the band of merry arsonists, though again secretive winks, smiles and whispered “good boys” were experienced.

    The call to public service sounded again through Milford. It was years before motorized vehicles came into vogue. The wheeled town equipment was horse drawn with the town barn located next to the Milford library. The feed and manure at the barn attracted an enormous pigeon population which roosted on the roof of the library. The avian population, having no “sense of occasion,” freely relieved themselves upon patrons of the library. A public outcry erupted in word and print demanding a solution to the “pigeon menace.” Numerous and sundry cures were attempted, all meeting with miserable failure. Here again, Malloy’s (devious?)  inner drive for problem solving revealed itself.

    He and (again if the writers memory serves) one of the Sonya boys collected a great deal of grain and somehow came into a substantial amount of grain alcohol. The grain and alcohol were mixed, packed into burlap bags and shouldered to the library grounds, where the mixture was liberally spread. The birds hungrily ingested the new largess, temporarily flying back to the library roof. Temporarily, because in their inebriated state, the drunken birds experienced extreme difficulty in hanging onto their perches and tumbled to the ground where they aimlessly flopped about. Years later, Papa’s recitation of the scene, with one thumb in his armpit, his elbow flapping while making cooing sounds left his eldest grandson (siblings and friends) laughing hysterically. The appearance of Mike Nolan tempered the sense of accomplishment shared by Malloy and Sonya.

    Mike Nolan was reputed to be the largest cop in New England, reportedly 6’6” – 6’10” tall with size 14 boots. He came upon the pair who were collecting the fallen birds and stuffing them into the now empty burlap bags.

    “What are you two up to?” Nolan bellowed.

    The surprised (possibly contrite?…naaah) pair explained to a now thoroughly amused officer the whats and whys of their actions. The good cop sent the kids on their way with the explanation that, “The old biddy in the library is complaining of animal cruelty. I’ll straighten her out.” No subtle winks or smiles this time, Nolan was laughing out loud at the situation. The timeline is a bit muddled, but the writer wonders if this is the evolution of the pigeon collection and subsequent chicken soup.

     Another tale comes to mind, one in which the mischievousness of the pigeon catcher and the pyrotechnic skills of the “outhouse arsonist” as well as local disdain for the Irish could blend.

    There were a couple of groups of teens in Milford at the time. Tommy’s were Irish, though the make up of the others was never clear. There was never a mention of overt violence but “The Others” pretty much hung out on a corner now called Lincoln Square, on the sidewalk adjacent to where Morin’s Studio currently stands. Through Main Street, recessed or submerged trolley tracks existed with a significant bend where Main Street curves at Lincoln Square. Somehow, Malloy’s friends came into possession of a skyrocket. The young rocketeers placed the device in the tracks not far from the Milford Town Hall. It was ignited and blasted up the tracks until the physics of making the turn revealed themselves causing the rocket to jump the tracks and explode against the brick wall where “The Others” were standing. Suffice to say that the domination of that corner was yielded and all could pass freely.

    But all could not be fun and games. A large family, ultimately ten mouths to feed required more money than Big Tom could make alone. As the eldest son Tommy had to find work. So, prior to going to class at St. Mary’s Elementary School, he rode a horse drawn wagon delivering milk and eggs. But no good deed goes unpunished. The job often caused him to be late for school, earning a slap on the wrists with a ruler. Tardiness was sinful in the eyes of the good nuns. But a slap on freezing cold hands after working in the freezing winter? No good deed goes unpunished. It is unclear whether frequent lateness or the need for more income was the cause, but Tom Malloy’s formal education ended in the eighth grade. Never did he speak with bitterness of this, though speak he did. He knew the value of schooling and craved learning. In later years he read voraciously. Read anything, books, periodicals, newspapers. He was a news “junkie.” Current events were important as was history. In his later years his eldest grandson often teased him that he didn’t have to study history, he was so old that he was present when most of it occurred! This earned a chuckle, but an observation as well. He often said, “I could not have chosen a better time to have been born. I remember hearing of the Wright Brothers first flying and later watched men walking on the Moon! On television! We never imagined television. What I have seen in my life….”

    Formally educated? No. Smart? Wise? Absolutely. Your writer has often said that “I’ve met and enjoyed the friendship of men with far better educations, but never one wiser or smarter than Papa.”

   Schooling finished, young Tom was helping to support a family. If not a man already, Tom Malloy was fast becoming one.


                                            PART TWO: TOM GOES TO WAR

    Tommy was now a working man, helping to support his family.. Deliveries were part of the mix as were perhaps manufacturing and somehow, painting was in the picture. Whether or not the painting was pre- or post-war has been lost in the mists of time. Whatever it was he did for work clearly helped the family finances. He was about 12 years old.

    Employment however, was not the only thing on Tom’s adolescent mind. East, across the great water, the Mighty Hun was stampeding across Europe. Though the United States had declared neutrality, the horrors of invasions filled the papers, exciting a patriotic fervor. As he recounts it, both he and his friend Tommy Eckles enlisted in the Massachusetts State Guard without being completely honest about their ages. That date has never been known but history well records that the United States entered what we have come to know as World War One. That which Tom’s unit was, became Company M, 104th Infantry U.S.A.

    Apparently Company M mustered originally at the Milford Armory though at some point conducted maneuvers on Nantucket Island. Here again, Tom showed his skills at problem solving earlier described in the “Outhouse Arson and Pigeon Wrangling” segments.

   One particular recruit was something of an irritant. The tool for correction was clearly at hand, the Atlantic Ocean. In the wee hours of the morning the sleeping pest and his cot were gently carried to the water’s edge as the tide rolled in, and deposited. Back to bed for Tom and his cohorts. There was no need for reveille as dawn approached; the air was filled with screams of “Help, I’m drowning (in knee deep water).”  The victim’s comrades of course (innocently) ran to his rescue. He must have been gratified for the daring retrieval for never did he run afoul of his tent mates again.

    Soon after the return to Milford Company M marched to Ayer, MA where they camped while beginning the construction of Fort (nee: Camp) Devens. On September 25, 1917 they departed for Montreal, arriving September 26, the same day that they departed for Liverpool.

    Little was told of this period with one exception. Yanks were not accustomed to seeing men in kilts. England used double-decker buses where access to the upper level occurred via ladder. After only one experience the Americans decided that they didn’t want to follow a gent in a kilt up the ladder leading to the top deck.

    The British experience was brief, for Company M landed at Le Havre, France on October 24. At some point Company M joined British and French troops in the trenches. The German lines were clearly visible. The Americans made a distinctly poor but lasting impression upon both sides of the battlefield.

    One morning, the Americans noticed a contingent of Germans bathing and doing laundry at a pond well within rifle range. The Americans promptly released a fusillade upon the enemy. The loudest protests were however from French and English trench mates. The Yanks were rather sternly advised that with the war at something of a stalemate that an arrangement was made declaring the pond a neutral zone with scheduled use for either side.

    The members of the Yankee Division informed their “friends” that being over a thousand miles from home, this war was going to be finished, NOW!   (Authors note: Tom told me that during weekends, French troops who had family nearby could go on visits and that other nationalities might find a town for R and R. This tradition ended with the appearance of Company M,  Apparently the American forces were compelling debaters; all such traditions ended then and there.

   Tom’s retellings of his experiences were never told in chronological order and rarely if ever cited dates. His recitations were most often humorous but sometimes thought provoking.

    He told of receiving a letter from home in 1918, while awaiting orders to go “over the top” for an attack. An unheard of disease, the Spanish Flu had taken the life of his brother Billy. He was devastated to the point where he recounted “I didn’t care if I lived or died in the battle.” (Authors note: William Malloy’s name is memorialized  on the family headstone at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Milford, MA, but his body is somewhere in a mass grave at St. Mary’s, specific location unknown.)

    Tom’s most harrowing tale was of being the unit’s burial officer. Following a winter battle, the battlefield was patrolled for casualties. Tom saw a body in the snow and attempted to turn it over. The turning revealed two dead soldiers, one American, one German. Each man’s bayonet was imbedded to the hilt in the other’s chest, the bodies frozen together in death. “They were just kids. Cripes, in another day and time the might have become friends”. Papa was often emphatic about a particular tradition of the day. One was not an adult until the age of 21, until then you were a child. He viewed the war as one fought by children, frequently expounding on his disgust. Upon his discharge, April 20, 1919 he was 21 years, 11 days old. Barely a man.

   His most oft told story involved his best friend, Tom Eckles with whom he had enlisted. The events occurred at the battle of Chateau-Thierry in 1918. The troops had returned to their trenches and Malloy tried to account for all of his men. One was missing, Eckles. Upon being given a description of where Eckles went down, he put on his pack, grabbed his gun and started over the top. His lieutenant stopped him and Malloy said “My men, dead or alive, come home.”  His attempted rescue mission was briefly delayed when the lieutenant grabbed him, earning the officer a strong left fist.

    It took hours, but he located the badly wounded Eckles. The wound was bound; Malloy hoisted him over his shoulder and began his hike back to the lines. A German sniper shot Papa. The round went through his pack and through his armpit, hitting no bone. Malloy and Eckles fell.  They waited, motionless until the sniper moved. Through his last telling of this story he spoke with regret that his one shot killed the German, but it was kill or be killed. Eckles was successfully delivered to a hospital where Malloy was told to stay put for treatment of his wound. He advised the medical staff that with him and Eckles in the hospital, his unit had neither a sergeant nor corporal and he was returning. That having been said, Tom threw his pack and gun out a window and exited the same way, walking back to the trenches. An account of this event, written by Tommy Eckles can be found elsewhere on this website.

(Authors note: In later life I asked Papa if he was ever worried about being court martialed and shot for having struck a superior officer under combat conditions, constituting mutiny. His reply: “Nope. They knew what happened to the last clown that took a shot at me.”).

    The battles and skirmishes continued until November 11, 1918. Company M sailed from Brest, France on March 27, 1919 arriving in Boston on April 4, 1919. They mustered out at Camp Devens April 20, 1919.

    The War to end all Wars was over.


In France. Tom is on the right

A few notes regarding the letters below. I made every effort to follow his spelling, paragraphing and punctuation such as to retain it’s authenticity. Where I have printed lines, they are representative of erasures. I can’t imagine him erasing something without correcting it so I think that a censor did the editing before it left France.

We’re fast running out of relatives that might help with identifying these folks leaving me with no clue as to the identity of “Unc.”  BW

                               Somewhere in France     
                                 Dec. 7, 1917

Hello Unc;

                  One of your letters arrived here yesterday and believe me I was glad to hear from you because it’s only the second letter I’ve received since I left the States. The other one was from Rosie Sonier  and I received that about two weeks ago. I haven’t heard from home or received the package but except (sic) things as they come and I expect those any day now if they haven’t gone down to Davey Jones locker.

During the day we work pretty hard because our drills are stiff and snappy but after hours they leave it to us to make a good time for ourselves somehow. Say! We’ve got a ____________ in our room that would make you die laughing if you could see it. In the first place it _______  one half resting on the other. We have an iron plate for a cover and a piece of a Karo _________Then we have a _________ that’s so big that I’m afraid a good draft will draw it up through the chimney. I’m in a __________ with ________  and a fellow named Clifford from the Eighth and they call us the “Wild Trio” because when we get going why it’s not safe to come into the room without a ________ on because your liable to get a trench shoe on the head. Oh. I’ve lost a lot of hair on account of this war I have. I got a hair cut yesterday.

  I don’t know what kind of stuff that “rat tail” is that they have in Ireland but if it’s any worse than French tobacco why I’ll pass.

If we get into this scrap alright, if we don’t alright, that’s how much we’re worrying. But while we drill we drill and theres no fooling about it. I sent a twenty seven dollar money order home.

How is everybody at your house and mine? Tell Aunt Maggie that I was asking for her and that I will write her a letter soon. It isn’t easy to send letters from here as from

the states. Show this letter to my mother and tell her not to worry about me because I’m taking good care of myself. I’m liable to be passing on my stripes anytime because I’m still under that same captain that I was telling you about the last time I was home and you know how I pulled with him. He’s the one that wouldn’t give me the telegram. I can be as good a private as a non-com. I’ve been there before. Well don’t worry about me old scout because I’m alright.

  From your kid nephew who thinks about you a lot.
                                                      Corp. Thomas F. Malloy
                                                     Co. M. 104th U.S Infantry
                                                      Am. Ex. Forces

This has no address. It is a card, once in an envelope no doubt. The face of the card reads “Souvenir de France,” beneath a basket of flowers.
                                                                                   Somewhere in France
                                                                                              Aug. 3, 1918
Dear Aunt Maggie,

    Just a line to let you know that I am well and happy and hope that both you and all my cousins are the same.

    How is Uncle Bill and his family? Tell him and all my friends that I would like to hear from them all.

    From your loving nephew
           Tom xxx
      Corp. Thomas F. Malloy
       Co. M 104th U. S. Inf.

Letter to Mr. & Mrs. William Connolly, 133 West Spruce St., Milford, Mass. U.S.A.
Sept. 22, 1918

Dear Uncle;

    I received your letter of Aug, 18 on the 20th of Sept,  and believe me I was glad to hear that everyone was well at your house and mine.

    Where did you get that stuff that I wasn’t in the drive? Sure I was and I was with Jack Powers the night he got his also Esmond and Fuller and believe me the air was quite crowded with shells, machine gun bullets and gas, so you see I wasn’t in Paris. I haven’t missed a day with the company

since I’ve been in France and I’ve been through everything with them. But I don’t blame you for thinking I wasn’t with them because I don’t like to mention those things and it’s been so long since I’ve really been in a house that I wouldn’t know the kitchen from the bedroom, so when I said a nice French bed I meant a pile of straw in a hayloft with the lovely cows and chickens below.

    That picture you saw was taken by Louis Costello after we came out of the trenches and were resting.

    I had to laugh about what you said about Ike Sniderman, and I’ll bet if the old gang was home his team.

would have had a ten to one chance of going into the fire.

   This is no place for you because things fly too thick for a married man with a family like yours.

    Have had a letter from both Johnny Connelly and Pete Norton but haven’t heard from Barney Tarpey yet.

  Thanks just the same for the tobacco, because by the time I sent an order for some the rules would change and I’d have to start all over. We are issued Bull Durham and that has the French weed beat forty ways.

    Well what do the people think of the Tin Soldiers now? I think by the showing the fellows have made they are not bowing to any outfit in France or the States.

    The Boche certainly has a great respect for Americans now and when we get close he won’t fight because he thinks we are too willing. I’ve had the satisfaction of being in the first line and be among the first to cross over land the Germans held from the French since the beginning of the war. The people of Milford needn’t worry about company M because they are head over heels in this scrap to the finnish with the rest of the regiment. Was glad to hear that the governor was better.

    Give my regards to all From your nephew.

   Corp. Thos. F. Malloy
   Co. M. 104th Inf.
   American E.F.

Malloy family shortly after the war.

                                                            ELECT THOS. F. MALLOY

                                                          To the Voters of Milford:

  I was pleased to learn that Thomas F. Malloy was going to be a candidate for Selectman at the next election, and I feel that I should let the public know certain facts about him that modesty will probably prevent him from telling you.  I have known Thomas F. Malloy for about 15 years. He was a member of the original Company M of Milford in the National Guard in 1916. When the war broke out, I was in the same Company with him, which was Company M of the 104th Infantry, 26th Division, and it was this same 104th Infantry that received from the French Government the first decoration received by any American Infantry during the World War. We landed in France in September 1917, and the boys of our Company were engaged in every serious encounter that took place during that hectic series of campaigns that extended from February 1918 to November 1918. He was in the engagements at Ainse, Marne, Apremont, Seichprey, Chateau-Thierry, and the Meuse-Argonne.

   I will never forget July 19, 1918, and what happened on that day is what has caused me to come forward and tell the people of Milford what kind of a man Thomas F. Malloy is. We were fighting in the front line trenches in the offensive at Chateau-Thierry on July 19 when a machine gun bullet wounded me in the left thigh, at about 3:15 p.m. and that wound disabled me so that I lay there in the battle area while the fight was raging during the night, We were at the tip of a triangle driving in and our two supporting flanks had not reached the advance that we had reached. There the fighting was raging all day and all night, and it was dangerous to move anywhere until our two supporting flanks came up. I was there on the ground from 3:15 in the afternoon until 9 the next morning, in a serious condition, without any medical attention, and realizing the danger that I was in, it was this same Thomas F. Malloy who took me up over his shoulder and carried me back about one mile. Most of the way he had to carry me through muddy, swampy soil with the water up to his hips, with the battle raging and being in extreme danger every minute of the time. While he was carrying me, he was hit by a bullet that had gone through his pack and mess kit and wounded his left shoulder, and in this condition he carried me back to our base where I could receive first aid. I was laid up in the hospital for months.

   I know the heroic deed of Thomas F. Malloy saved my life, and I feel that the people of Milford should know this. I believe that Malloy’s service to his country entitles him to consideration by the voters of this town. He was a soldier and a good one. For two years he was a patrolman on our streets and a good one. He has always lived in Milford and has always proven to be a good, clean cut, honest fellow, and I believe that if he was good enough to fight for his country, he ought to be good enough to be given a chance to sit as one of the members of our Board of Selectmen. I know that he has the right stuff in him.  For what he has done in the past, I urge the people of Milford to support him.

Yours very truly,
10 Thayer Street
Milford, Mass.  

  Tom won the election. (1925) Both Tom Malloy and Tommy Eckles later lived and worked in Hopedale. Eckles was a mailman and Malloy a police officer, and from 1943 to 1963, chief of police.

When this picture of Tom and Betty was taken, they were living in Milford. They had taken a Sunday afternoon walk to Hopedale, and a friend who had gone along with them had a camera and took this picture in front of the Statue of Hope.

Tom with neighborhood kids in front of IGA Market - c. 1950.

Tom’s grandson, Gary Wright, wearing Tom’s uniform.

Tom and the Milford election of 1925

   Edward Malloy  

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